National Harbor builder lands ‘Saturday Night Live’ spot, 10 acres in Virginia Beach

Quite a week for Fairfax developer the Peterson Cos. First the firm is making big headlines by opening a $15 million, 175-foot-tall Ferris wheel — branded Capital Wheel — at National Harbor Friday. Not only has the project attracted the attention of every local news crew, it was featured on “Saturday Night Live’s” “Weekend Update” segment recently, with Vice President Joe Biden depicted as a childish lover of cotton candy who asks to ride the wheel again and again.

(The bit comes about a minute in, after jokes about Karl Rove, Donald Sterling and global warming).

The Peterson Cos. also shipped one of the wheel’s gondolas out to Las Vegas so the company could show it off at the International Council of Shopping Centers convention.

But while the company, led by founder Milt Peterson and son Jon, was basking in the glow of Ferris wheel glamour, it was also inching closer to a deal for what might be National Harbor 2.0 on 10 acres in Virginia Beach. As the Virginia Pilot reported, Virginia Beach Development Authority on Tuesday voted to enter into negotiations with the Peterson Cos. on a deal to redevelop the former site of “The Dome,” a bubble-shaped civic center.

The Petersons were the only ones who responded to Virginia Beach’s developer search, but there’s good reason to think they can make something work there. After doing deals with hotel operators, a children’s museum, condo builders, the Capital Wheel and dozens of restaurants and shops for National Harbor — not to mention MGM — the Petersons know all the right numbers to dial to do a second, smaller version of the Prince George’s County project. One would guess many of those calls have been placed already. A spokeswoman for the company said no details were yet available. A previous developer of the Dome site planned to turn the site into an entertainment mecca with restaurants, movie theaters, a performance theater, an ice rink, bowling and, yes, a Ferris Wheel.

The company failed to secure financing for the project, according to the Pilot.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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